Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More Miscellany

BACK TO SCHOOL. I'm so excited about our new partnership with nearby Crittenden Middle School.

Several weeks ago, our Outreach Committee led us to "adopt" the administrators, teachers, and students over there. Since then we've served snacks to the faculty and offered brief backrubs and placed candy bars in each teacher mailbox. We've collected and delivered gently used belts for use in pupil attire. One of our women's Sunday School classes prepared and took over a gift basket to a teacher who is expecting a baby this week. Two of our ladies went there last week and stuffed each faculty mailbox with a bag of popcorn and a note of appreciation from our church. We are donating money to their Angel Tree project for needy students this year.

And we want to brainstorm and dream up dozens of other creative ways that we can be a blessing and a help to that local institution. Possibilities include tutoring, putting on a special dinner for school staff and teachers, helping with flowers and shrubs on school grounds, asssisting with a planned student garden next Spring, volunteering to help in student athletic programs, and sending birthday cards to all the teachers through the year. We have a chance here to put our arms around those folks and lift and encourage and refresh them.

Why do we do this? Why bother?

Because Jesus challenges us to be salt and light in the culture around us(Matthew 5:13-14). Because our good deeds can open doors and make it a little easier for people to listen to us and believe what we say when we talk about Jesus(Matthew 5:16). Because good works are the signature of the Christian(Titus 2:14: 3:8). And because while we're waiting for Christ to return so we can go home, we're to be actively engaged in being a very positive, caring influence in our society(Jeremiah 29:1-7).

I long to see every person in our congregation find some way or niche to plug in to this undertaking. Each church member has skills and talents that could be utilized to contribute to the overall success of the project. Getting involved will energize you! If this campaign ends up just being an activity that a small handful of our folks work on, then we will have missed a golden opportunity to unite around something significant that enables us to break out of these walls and out of our comfort zones to make a difference, even if a small one, in our community. I also hope that throughout the duration of this outreach we'll have numerous chances to actually interact with students and not just the adults who work at the school.

Please don't get tired of hearing about this labor of love. Pray for its success. Ask God's blessings and favor on the employees and kids over there. Step forward with suggestions and ideas and a willingness to actually get involved in some manner. Remember that we're not going there to witness or evangelize or try to get new members for our church. We can't do that. We go out of the grace and love of Christ to give ourselves away in simple, quiet, humble service. Here is a tangible way to minister that has more traction to it than anything we've done in a long time.

MOVING DAY. Once again I want to encourage all of our folks to sit a little closer to the front in Sunday worship. We have a large sanctuary, and when people are so spread out or clinging to seats toward the back we lose a lot of warmth and intimacy. Please consciously, deliberately decide to begin to relocate to a pew, in either section, within the first 12 or 13 rows from the platform. If everybody did this it would have a transforming effect on our worship times. Do this for the good of the church body.

ADVENT. It's hard to believe that this season has rolled around again, but I sure am glad it has! I love the music and the scriptures and the colors and the decorations of this 4-week preparation time for Christmas. My preaching for these Sundays will come out of Luke 1:26-38 which tells of the angel Gabriel's announcing to Mary that she will bring baby Jesus into the world. Read and reflect on these verses to get ready for the sermons on December 11 and 18. And look, enjoy this whole month! Don't let commercialization or overactivity rob you of the simple joys and wonders of this time of year. By the way, please remember that I love you and my job and this great church more than I could ever express!!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Will you be on the road, traveling this holiday season, away from your residence?

You'll have a lot of company. Millions will crowd the interstates heading home to visit the relatives. So many of our men and women in the military will be scattered around the world, often in distant places, separated from loved ones. That's true, too, for Christian missionaries, who will go on serving the Lord in far off locales at the cost of being unable to be with family at yuletide. Truck drivers will still be hauling freight. Emergency personnel, like police and firemen and hospital and rescue workers, will be on the job and moving about and out of the house.

It's fascinating to me that most of the persons in the stories of the first Christmas in Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1-2 spent time on the road as the epic events of Christ's birth unfolded. A good bit of traveling takes place in these narratives.

Zechariah, for example, was fulfilling priestly duties, away from home, at Jerusalem's temple when he learned that he and his wife, Elizabeth, were going to have a baby in their old age who would grow up to be John the Baptist. He journeys homeward with the amazing news. Young Mary, upon receiving the angelic announcement that she, though a virgin, has been chosen to give birth to the Christ-child, leaves her house in Nazareth and travels southward to a Judean town to visit Elizabeth, her relative, and she both gives and receives encouragement at their joint and unusual pregnancies.

Then, of course, there is the long, arduous trip that Joseph and Mary take from Nazareth to Bethlehem during the most difficult time of her child-bearing when she is about to deliver. She's a long way from home and her "maternity ward" ends up being in a smelly stable or cave. Later, after the birth, shepherds leave where they are and go to see the new baby. Eventually wise men from hundreds of miles away set out on a road trip to find and pay homage to this small child who they sense is someone of great significance. Ultimately, Mary and Joseph will have to embark on yet another not-completely-pleasant pilgrimage when they hurriedly whisk young Jesus away from their dwelling and to safety incognito in Egypt out of range of king Herod's evil intentions. And don't forget the intriguing story of the family trip to a religious feast in Jerusalem when the now adolescent Jesus is missing for awhile, causing great distress for his parents.

Surely the incarnation itself was the most extensive journey. God stepped out of eternity and Heaven, entered time and space, and took on human flesh in Jesus, all for the purpose of reconciling sinful humanity to Himself. What an incredible distance was spanned. What an awesome love was demonstrated.

Some lessons emerge.

For starters, we probably ought to shed our naive, warm, cuddly,sentimental notions of what that first Christmas was like. It was not a Hallmark, comfortable, cozy, "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" kind of experience for the cast of characters living through it, even though they were tremendously blessed. There was fear, uncertainty, loneliness, hardship, and separation involved in history's most momentous event. Let that be of some comfort to you this holiday season when you're stuck in traffic or just can't find that perfect gift or have to put up with cranky or obnoxious family members around the Christmas dinner table or are haunted by dark, hurtful memories of past holidays that were very painful or when you have to be far, far away from the people you love most. Let's face it--Christmas is not always "the most wonderful time of the year." Remember, too, that there will be other Christmases. More than likely this is not your last one!

Let the journey motif in the Christmas stories remind you that the Christian life itself is a pilgrimage. Spiritually speaking, we are to be on the move. We're to be growing and stretching and advancing. We're in a maturing process, progressing toward the goal of becoming like Christ. The Bible describes our relationship with Jesus as a walk and a race. Sometimes that's hard and sometimes it's easy, but we're not just to sit and wait until we go to Heaven! There are lessons to learn, sins and bad habits to give up, virtues to acquire, and service to render.

In your literal moving about this Christmas, whether it's crosstown or across the nation, take some cues from the personalities you meet in the birth stories of Jesus. Like Mary, for example, find someone(an Elizabeth) that you can lift and refresh and affirm. Nursing home, maybe? A lonely homebound individual, perhaps, or a scared little child? You might find, as Mary did, that encouragement and inspiration flow right back to you. Like the shepherds and the wise men, make ample time for worship. How tragic to spend so much money on self and others and schedule so many holiday activities for ourselves that we forget about Christ and his amazing entry into this world and ignore opportunities to give him praise. He can be adored, incidentally, just as much in a family car trip on I-64 or I-81 as in a magnificent Christmas Eve candlelight service in a church if you are genuinely focused.

We can learn from Joseph that sometimes you may have to change your plans in order to serve the Lord. I'm sure that he would have preferred to assist his wife in her childbirth at home rather than on a long trip. I feel certain that a sudden, unexpected trek to Egypt to protect his new, young son wasn't on his calendar for the upcoming year. He wanted to please God, though, and so he was flexible and pliable. See your interruptions this season as perhaps divine appointments. Think about making maybe one major sacrifice to help someone in dire need. Like Zechariah, realize that there is great value in simply being silent sometimes, too. Carve out some down time as he and Elizabeth did to be alone and quiet and reflective, to let your soul be renewed in the midst of a hectic few weeks. That'll be tough on the highway when the kids are quarreling in the backseat. It'll be hard, too, if you think you absolutely have to go to every Christmas party. Personal times for solitude and retreat work wonders for our spirits, though.

Even if you're not going anywhere this holiday, travel back in your mind's-eye at least once to the rich happenings of that first Christmas centuries ago. It may completely change your perspective.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Miscellany, yet again

DON'T WASTE HALLOWEEN. This year we won't be having any activities here on October 31. In times past we've had Fall Fests on that night for the enjoyment of our own church family. In recent years we shifted to "Trunk 'n' Treat" events outside on our parking lot with outreach to our neighborhood as a focus. We'll take a break this time around. We'll not schedule a happening inside our facility or out on our grounds.

It's okay not to do the same thing every year!

We could use a breather. Traffic and walk-ups for the outdoor event had seemed to decrease some in the last few cycles, and the needed participation of our own folks was a little down, too. Maybe we should reevaluate what would be a better approach next year. Churches ought to be constantly studying and dreaming and brainstorming new and creative ways to minister and do mission. Staying in a rut is useless. ( I'm so very excited, for instance, about our latest project--adopting and partnering with nearby Crittenden Middle School and attempting to be a blessing to faculty and students there. That endeavor began last week.)

So...stay home this Halloween. But use the evening for God's glory. Turn on all the lights in the house so that your residence is ablaze with illumination(we're people of the light, not darkness!). Make your dwelling shine like a Thomas Kincade painting!Meet your neighbors as they come bringing their little "trick-or treaters" to your door. Put a gospel tract or a New Testament in the kids' bags along with the candy. Invite some folks to visit our church. Enjoy being with your family. Breathe a silent prayer for each one who stops by your place that night and then shuffles back into the autumn darkness. If it's chilly, build a fire in the fireplace, make some popcorn, and watch a scary movie...and be so grateful that because we know Christ we don't have to be people who live in fear(ever counted how many "fear nots" there are in God's Word?)

CHRISTMAS IS COMING. If you don't believe me, go visit Cracker Barrel.

It's only 8 or 9 weeks away. And Advent begins on November 27. Just my usual reminder that if you're going to buy a new Bible for a friend or family member this holiday season, consider purchasing a study edition. Those cost more but offer lots of very helpful explanatory notes alongside the scripture text. I heartily recommend the ESV Study Bible. There's now a student edition of that wonderful product, too, if you're looking for a good spiritual tool to give a teenager.

PBA. In a day when many are discounting the value of district Baptist associations any more, and when some of those groups are even disbanding(one in central Virginia did recently) our own local grouping of churches is doing very, very well. Some of us attended last week's annual meeting of Peninsula Baptists and I have to tell you that I came out of that 2-day event greatly encouraged. There's new energy and passion and focus. Chuck Harrison, our new Director of Missions, is doing an awesome job of leading us. He's very committed to church planting and to existing church revitalization. Lift a prayer for him occasionally. He's a man with a vision! I'm thrilled that we've already had him here 3 times for visits and that he's now a good friend to us.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

New Grandson

William Shaphan(2Kings22) Davidson was born at 12:22am August 20! Praise the Lord!

This is Ryan and Christie's third child, and our third grandchild. We were able to be present in the hours leading up to delivery and then just after the birth. His size? 8lbs., 14oz. at 21 inches long. And...he was born on Vicki's birthday. We're proud, ecstatic, and honored about that.

We're excited to see what God is going to do with this new young life. Welcome to the world, baby Shaphan. We're so glad you're here!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


STATE DENOMINATIONAL NEWS: Word comes this week that Dr. Jeff Ginn, Executive Director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia for the past 3 years, has resigned to accept a pastorate in Baton Rouge, LA.

Ginn has been, in my opinion, a good leader. He is dynamic, articulate, and creative. He has led the SBCV in some fresh directions. He has had, apparently, a desire to return to pastoral ministry in a local church(which is really where it's at in kingdom work) and so will leave our state at the end of July. I didn't know him well. We've only had a few conversations. I assisted him once in a funeral in another city. He's a pretty sharp guy. My guess is he'll be missed. I wish him well in his new assignment.

As you know, Virginia is one of a small handful of states that have two state Baptist conventions. Here it's the SBCV and the BGAV. Local congregations can be either uniquely aligned with one or dually aligned with both. We have voted to affiliate with each of these 2 great entities. Both of them are led by and made up of terrific people and do really good work for Christ in our state. We divide up our Cooperative Program giving between them. Of late I suppose I've been a little more involved with the older BGAV because of personal friendships, but I'm a fan of both groups and am delighted that our church has the opportunity to draw from the resources of each.

In case you've forgotten, each Southern Baptist church is autonomous. We're not in some denominational hierarchy. We make our own decisions under the guidance and lordship of Christ. We do, however, voluntarily choose to relate to other congregations as partners in mission and ministry. Locally, that's through associations(for us, the PBA). Statewide, that's through state conventions. Nationally, we're linked to the Southern Baptist Convention. All of that gives us the chance to unite with likeminded believers and intensify our efforts to reach the world for Jesus. After all, that's our real business. Our churches are not to be cozy, comfortable country clubs that exist solely that we might get our needs met. Instead we're to be constantly finding new and effective ways to spread the Gospel of Christ all over the globe, often in sacrificial approaches. That's why working together in these larger groupings helps local fellowships carry out their mandate.

In recent years, denominationalism has fallen on hard times. Everything is in flux. Many Baptists across the land are turned off by bloated bureaucracy and loss of focus and division over sometimes minor issues. It remains to be seen what shapes our cooperation will take in the future. If you're a church member and serious about the Great Commission, all of this should be of at least some concern to you. This isn't something that just pastors should be interested in. Stay tuned.

CULTURAL DECLINE. The action last week by the New York state legislature to legalize same-sex marriage there next month is regrettable and one more indication of the decay and deterioration of the culture around us. This should not surprise us, though. We live in a fallen world that is mostly alienated from God. Lost people have no other means of making their decisions except by relying on their natural, fleshly reasoning which is set against God's will. In other words, unbelievers are just acting naturally. Spirit-filled, scripture-immersed Christians know that homosexuality is sin and that marriage is to be between a man and a woman.

All of that said, though, I hope by now you know my heart. We're not to be condemnatory people. We're to shower gay and lesbian individuals with love and grace with the hope of reaching them for Jesus. One of my favorite Bible texts on this is 2 Timothy 2:24-26. I'm appreciative of some of the humble, gracious remarks that Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler made on this issue in response to a questioner at the SBC in Phoenix the other week. Though adamantly opposed to homosexuality, he reminded us all that we've got a lot of work to do in terms of extending understanding compassion before we can expect to gain a hearing. We've been loudly judgemental.But each of us is a sinner. Every one of us struggles still with some sin. We're going to have to exchange our shouting and our rhetoric for humility and listening ears and loving tears. We're going to have to come down off our legalistic pedestals, where we tend to rank sins,and admit that before God we're all desperately wicked and in need of His mercy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


REFLECTION STATEMENT: Every now and then I have Marian print up some sheets of paper with thought-provoking sentences on them and post them at different points around our facility. The idea is to stimulate our thinking.

Regrettably, no one ever comments on them, at least to me. This is true, too, for newsletter columns and bulletin inserts. No one asks "What did that mean?" or says"I didn't agree with that" or "That really impacted me" or "That was a waste of time and paper" or "That gave me a new perspective". It's a little discouraging and makes me think that these sincere efforts to provide seed and fertilizer for inspiration and motivation and spiritual challenge are futile.

Well, anyway, currently there is a 14-word saying attached to some of our doors and hallways and bulletin boards around here that poses a question: if our church ceased to exist would it make any difference to this neighborhood?

That inquiry stirs up still other questions. Does the community all about us even know that we're here? What is their impression of us? Do they sense that we care? Are we really ministering to them in any meaningful way? And again, if we folded up or moved away would that have a negative impact on them? Do they harbor the impression that we just drive in for a couple of hours on Sunday morning and then drive out without any real concern for, or interest in, them?

All of this is important to consider. If God planted us here, and wants us to remain here for at least the foreseeable future, then this is our mission field. We're to reach out and get to know and influence and bless the persons on these streets close by our property. I don't know that we're really doing that. We take a stab at it occasionally but have no ongoing, concerted, consistent strategy in place to just love on those folks with the love of Christ and touch their lives in helpful, practical ways whether or not they ever come to our church. Somehow we've got to seek the mind of the Lord and come up with some plan to accomplish that.

I'm excited about the desire of our Outreach Committee to attempt another small step in that direction with the milk-and-eggs project on June 25. This is something we all can get behind in different ways. Let's not leave this to the few members of this team. Let's plug in. Let's be here that morning to meet our neighbors and help them in a specific,tangible area of life. And let's develop dozens more creative approaches to extend a hand. Matthew 25:31-46 comes to mind here. God never intended for us to have a comfortable, country club mentality but rather to shine as lights in the darkness. Seed, and salt, in a hurting world.

NEW BOOK: In just a few weeks California pastor, writer, and conference speaker Francis Chan releases his latest work, Erasing Hell(David C. Cook, 2011). It will be a brief but thorough examination of what the Bible says about eternal punishment, and will be a great antidote to the seemingly universalistic distortions about that subject in the controversial book by Rob Bell that came out in March. I hope you'll get a copy(about $15) and read and review it very carefully. It will give you thoughts to share with unsaved friends. Chan's perspective will be a humble, not arrogant, one.

SBC. I didn't attend the annual meeting this year, held out in Phoenix. Messenger count was expected to be quite low, and no major matters seemed to be on the agenda. I do think it is important for pastors(and laypeople, too) to go to these conventions. There were many years when I never missed. Oh, well, maybe next year, in New Orleans. You do need to be aware that there is real concern in our denomination these days over declining baptisms and attendance in our churches.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Not Camping With Camping

Well, May 21 came and went and California radio preacher Harold Camping's prediction that the rapture would occur and God's judgement would fall on that day didn't materialize.

Regrettably, the 89-year old Family Radio head is not deterred. He's simply "recalculated", again, and now says that all of this will take place in October. News people are having a jolly field day with this stuff, and hundreds of folks who believed this man's declarations now feel crushed and deceived.

Some observations:
1.He blended ignorance and arrogance in his claim to know when these major prophetic
events would happen. Matthew 24:36,42, and 44 make it clear that no one but the Father
has that information. We're given signs but not the date.
2. He has to be labeled a false prophet now if you take Deuteronomy 18:21-22 seriously.
Jesus warned that lots of spokesmen like that would turn up in the endtimes(Matthew 24:
3. He has given the culture around us one more reason to laugh at our faith. In the minds of
many, all preachers, churches, and Christians are lumped together with this guy and
others like him as silly and backward and thus deserving of ridicule rather than a hearing.
That's unfair because there are millions of believers who are faithfully living the Christian
life and are involved in serving, sacrificial ministry. There are thousands and thousands of
Christ-followers who are careful, responsible, capable students of the scriptures who
present God's Word accurately(2 Timothy 2:15).
4. The more I study the Bible, the more I doubt the validity of a pretribulational rapture
anyway. It's just my opinion these days but I don't see a lot of scriptural support for it.
Jesus is coming back visibly, bodily, gloriously...but it's hard to hold to a 2-stage second
coming. And just believing in that because that's always what you've been told,without
doing your own diligent study on it, is not wise.
5. Unwittingly, Mr. Camping may now have caused a lot of Christians to lose hope in the
return of Christ. He may also have made it easier for many unbelievers to doubt the sure
reality of coming judgement for this earth . Evidences abound that we are living in the
last days. Signs seem to be intensifying that our Lord will soon be appearing and millions
of lost people will be doomed forever. That's why it was so hard for me to hear media
people mock and scorn Camping, even though I knew he was wrong, because I was
saddened that they were missing the larger point that one day final endtime events are
going to take place and so many won't be ready(2 Peter 3:1-13). Jesus said that society
would be pretty much like it was in the days of Noah(Matthew 24:37-39) when He comes
6. While we're waiting, we're to be ministering to people, winning souls, and growing in
Christ-likeness. That ought to keep us busy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Summer Reading

The summer season is arriving and with it comes more relaxed opportunities for reading.

Christians should be in the forefront of those who allow their minds to be expanded and their souls stretched by good books. Obviously the Bible is our first priority but God plants truth in the writings of contemporary authors, too. Their works can sharpen and refresh us and give us greater understanding not only of pertinent life issues but of the scriptures themselves.

Allow me to recommend some literary offerings that have impacted me recently and that could be helpful in your faith journey as a believer.

For starters, try Russell Moore's Tempted And Tried(Crossway, 2011). It's a brief study of the 3 major temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. Those critical tests are unpacked and explored skillfully and then their relevant applications to our lives today are discussed. It makes for good devotional reading. We tend to forget that Jesus himself experienced temptations and yet was victorious over them, giving us a pattern to follow in overcoming our own tests after we are born again and have a new spiritual nature.

Paul Enns has written Heaven Revealed(Moody Publishers, 2011). After the death of his wife this seminary professor set out to study anew the wonders of the afterlife for the child of God. His work considers many of the basic questions that Christians have about our eternal destiny, such as what we will do there and what we will see. His answers are based on biblical teachings and offer an exhilirating view of our future that rules out the common misconception that Heaven is just a glorified retirement village where Christians will sit on clouds and strum harps.

There is another dimension in the life beyond, though, that has gotten a lot of attention in recent months due to a controversial book by Michigan pastor Rob Bell that seemingly eliminates the idea of eternal punishment for some and apparently espouses universalism. A good, scholarly antidote to Bell's ideas comes in an earlier published work, Hell Under Fire(Zondervan, 2004), edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson with contributions by several leading evangelical academicians. This book examines the scriptural perspectives on Hell from a wide variety of angles. It's interesting that in July popular California pastor and author Francis Chan has a new work coming out on this fascinating subject, entitled Erasing Hell, in which he will defend the reality of this unpleasant otherworldly destination.

Two short but insightful books should be of special interest to church leaders. The Case For Antioch(B&H Books, 2011) investigates some of the characteristics of one of the early churches presented in the New Testament book of Acts and how that particular ancient congregation offers clues on how to develop transformational churches today in our culture. David Platt's Radical Together(Multnomah, 2011) deals with ways that modern churches can model serving, sacrificial ministry in society and make a profound difference. This work is a followup to a previous bestseller by Platt.

Interested in family concerns? Try the helpful, practical book How We Love Our Kids(Waterbrook Press, 2011) by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. The authors describe several different love styles that show up in homes and how those approaches affect children. Using the increasingly popular attachment theory, this book reveals how the early childhood experiences of parents determines how they will rear their own kids. Sometimes that's good and sometimes it isn't. This couple offers very specific suggestions on how to best show healthy love to our children.

Tired of shallow, trivial formulas for living the Christian life? Read the new book by Gary Thomas, Thirsting For God(Harvest House, 2011), in which he blends scripture and the reflections of some great Christ-followers in church history who discovered depth and maturity in ways unexpected to us who live in an insipid, fluffy, celebrity-and-entertainment oriented environment that often infects our view of Christianity. Two other works, Counterfeit Gospels(Moody Publishers, 2011) by Trevin Wax and Revise Us Again(David C. Cook, 2010) by Frank Viola also diagnose some of the glaring misunderstandings about our faith and practice as evangelical Christians and propose how we can live authentic spiritual lives as believers. Wax's book exposes some of the alternative brands of Christianity that do not match up to the biblical portrayal of the genuine gospel. The work by Viola, succinct and fresh, cuts through some of our behaviors as Christians that aren't very real and life-giving.

On these lazy, hazy days just ahead don't simply pamper your body. Do something good for your soul, too. Read a stimulating book.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Treasures From Tertius

I love finding short texts in scripture and digging out some insights from them for preaching. Notice I said short texts, not necessarily brief sermons on them!

This past Sunday I brought a message from Romans 16:22. Just a little verse, but loaded with lessons and applications.

The Apostle Paul is concluding his massive, comprehensive tome on the doctrine of salvation, his letter to the church at Rome(a great choice for a Bible book to spend 2011 in, reading and studying and reflecting). Because of poor eyesight or illegible handwriting or both, he had secured the services of an amanuensis, or secretary, to do the actual writing for him as he dictates. Thus in this little verse we are introduced to Tertius, the scribe, who in one sentence interjects his own short, warm greeting to the readers at the very end of the epistle.

After careful meditation, I discovered ten practical insights to pass on to you from that tiny statement that most readers would pass over as insignificant. God's word is so rich, isn't it(2 Timothy 3:16-17)? My own heart was warmed as I shared these thoughts with you. And the sermon wasn't that long! The ideas were meant to deepen faith.

Take lesson #5, for example. Based on the example of Tertius, I said the Christian walk is not just about meeting obligations and doing jobs but about building relationships and being part of a community. This secretary was working hard, listening carefully to Paul's words and then meticulously copying them down. In so doing he is serving the Lord and helping to advance the kingdom. He is laboring behind the scenes in a faithful way. Nevertheless he takes the opportunity to greet the readers and to personally, intimately interact with them. Perhaps he knew some of them, perhaps not. He saw the value of being connected and bonded to God's family. He was not just task-oriented and duty-conscious but was interested in people and being in relationship with them.

We miss something if we quickly exit the church building as soon as the benediction is pronounced without briefly lingering to spend a little quality time with our fellow believers. We're only cheating ourselves if we don't take advantage of chances to get into close-knit huddles(S.S. classes, choir, Bible studies, small-groups) with other Christians where we can be nourished and challenged and encouraged. We need one another! We draw strength from each other. It's quite possible to sit in a pew every Sunday or to hold some major church position and not really know or be known by, any other disciples who can refresh and inspire us and hold us accountable in our growth. Like Tertius, we must take the initiative to reach out and build networks of friends that can laugh with us and cry with us and pray with us and offer wise counsel when we need it. Lone-ranger Christians eventually crash and burn!

I like application #8, too. It also draws on the experience of this humble amanuensis in reminding us that not everything in the Christian life will be fun. There surely must have been some moments for this guy when the job of taking dictation got tedious. Certainly his fingers probably got tired and ached. It wasn't a glamorous, out-front, on-the-platform kind of Christian service. It definitely wasn't emotionally titillating, even though Paul's Spirit-inspired thoughts and words must have fed his soul. But Tertius was ministering. He was making a difference. He was pleasing the Lord. He was playing a part in God's great overarching plan to get the glorious message of the gospel out to the world. The task may have seemed at times to be dull and mechanical but the Lord would use his efforts.

Regrettably, the entertainment-saturated, success-oriented culture around us today has so crept into the Church that many believers have the idea that if something in the Christian life doesn't turn you on or pump you up it must not be of God. If the sermons don't excite you or the worship music doesn't thrill you the Lord must not be at work.If we go through some trial of illness or suffering we conclude that God doesn't care or if a church can't report big, glowing statistics it's labeled a failure. What happens is that we base our walk with God so often on our feelings and emotions, which are fickle and up-and-down. If we're not careful, the menial, routine chores(taking a turn in the nursery or mopping the fellowship hall floor or rehearsing for weeks on one choir piece or bagging groceries for the needy or diligently preparing a Sunday school lesson) begin to look like uninteresting and unimportant assignments that we'd rather avoid on our way to the next scintillating Christian concert or dynamic seminar. If we're not paying attention, we end up seeing our faith as a way to get our needs met and to feel good instead of as a channel for serving Christ and promoting His purposes. We have to understand that even though prayer and Bible study and sitting with a sick friend and working through a relational problem toward reconciliation or explaining the plan of salvation to a lost friend may not always give us a giddy high they are still beautiful, significant, soul-building acts that honor the Lord and bring glory to His name. Usually it's the slow, methodical, often grinding stuff in our Christian pilgrimage that stretches us and shapes us into godly character.

Make no mistake. Mostly unknown Tertius was rewarded for his work. That's insight #6. He had the great privilege of sitting with, and assisting the Apostle Paul. He had the joy of knowing his contribution to the crafting of this letter would have an impact. His name, because of the inserted greeting in verse 22, would forever be associated with this foremost piece of biblical writing. And in Heaven there would be trophies, too. You, as well, will be richly rewarded, both now and in eternity, for whatever you do to advance the cause of Jesus. In Matthew 10:42 you have our Lord's word on that!